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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | TIDBITS

Oxnard Resident Serves Up Magic

Ron Bell pulls out his bag of tricks at local restaurants. He says the venue requires special tact and timing.

July 11, 1996|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Order Sunday brunch at the Whale's Tail Restaurant in Oxnard and you're liable to find an ace of spades in your omelet.

It's not the chef's secret ingredient, but rather a tool of the trade for magician Ron Bell, who works the tables at the Whale's Tail 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday. The Oxnard resident also makes things disappear at Tony Roma's restaurant in Camarillo on Friday nights and at Tony Roma's in Agoura on Saturday nights, both from 6 to 9 p.m.

"I do mostly cards, things with silk handkerchiefs, coins, nuts and bolts, all sleight of hand and all right up close at the table," said Bell, 34. "It does seem strange to interrupt people having dinner and say, 'Would you like to see some magic?' But for some odd phenomenon, magic in restaurants has been going on for some time."

Bell took up magic as a hobby about seven years ago and in 1991 began doing mealtime magic at the now defunct Bobby McGee's restaurant in Oxnard. The Whale's Tail hired him for big dining events, such as Mother's Day meals, a couple of years ago and in January added the regular Sunday work. Bell joined the Tony Roma's restaurants in May.

"You get a booking every week and three hours of performing time," said Bell, who is a physical therapy major at Cal State Northridge and works as a physical therapy aide at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard.

One of the keys to his act, Bell said, is determining if diners will be open to his magic even before he approaches their table.

"If I see a couple staring into each other's eyes and they have a couple of glasses of wine, I don't interrupt them," he said. "It's also a delicate timing thing. One thing that's very important for a restaurant magician is that you don't hold up the service."

*

Denise Hoffman, an instructor at the Let's Get Cookin' school will present a "Great Cloves of Garlic" class at noon today. Hoffman will prepare three recipes and demonstrate garlic preparation techniques.

"I'm going to be talking about how best to store garlic, peel it, blanch it, roast it," said Hoffman, a graduate of the school's professional cooking series. "There are a million things you can do with garlic."

Hoffman's menu for the day will include Mexican Caesar salad, roasted garlic pasta and loin of lamb with Gorgonzola cheese and garlic sauce. The school is at 4643 Lakeview Canyon Road in Westlake Village. The class costs $18. Call (818) 991-3940 for reservations.

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